Hermeneutics As Apprenticeship

For years, I have taught standard evangelical hermeneutics.  In other words: the meaning of the biblical text for us today begins with the meaning of that text to the original author and audience.

“A text cannot mean what it never meant,” as Fee & Stuart say. (I used to tell my classes that I wanted that line engraved on my tombstone.)

I have sold so many copies of How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth that Fee & Stuart should pay me a finder’s fee.  I am probably responsible for the sale of more than 2,000 copies of that book, in 2nd – 4th editions.

But I have also always been aware that our hermeneutics could not end there; the approach of a reader in isolation, scientifically parsing the text for authorial intent, can only take us so far.  In the end, it does not consistently nor completely produce LOGOS, God’s word to us.

So I have searched for years for ways to reach beyond the basic evangelical approach to understanding and teaching the spiritual disciplines of taking and making meaning from biblical texts.

This is a review of what appears to be an important new book: Hermeneutics as Apprenticeship; from Michael F. Bird’s excellent blog, Euangelion.  The book is written by David I Starling, and is reviewed by Laura Thierry.

What if learning to read and interpret Scripture well looked less like a classroom and more like a carpenters [sic] shop? What if character and virtue were just as significant for the interpretation of Scripture as an excellent Greek and Hebrew exegetical toolbox? What if hermeneutics was actually [more, sic] like learning a trade than gaining a degree? Such are the kinds of questions undergirding David I. Starlings winsome and engaging book, Hermeneutics as Apprenticeship.

Beginning with the clear reorientation to the reality that “Whenever we read Scripture we are interpreting” (1) (that is, that there is no possibility of a “pure” uninterrupted reading), Starling analyzes the plight that this raises for Evangelical Interpreters, that is, those who “approach the task of Bible reading without the direction of an infallible church tradition to govern their interpretive decisions.” Without this, what is the anchor for our interpretation, particularly in light of the “plurality of evangelical interpretations” that increasingly exist? (7).

The answer, from a protestant perspective has often put forward a two-fold understanding of Scripture being its own interpreter: (1) Scripture is passively interpreted by those who actively interpret it by other passages of Scripture, or (2) Scripture, as an active agent, interprets and illuminates “the world of the reader”.

But what if there is also a third way in which “Scripture interprets Scripture”? [read on] …

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